Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a speech on 15 February 2018, entitled, “Glad Tidings of Victory To Our People in Egypt”. Al-Zawahiri’s address was the eighth episode of the “Brief Messages To A Victorious Umma (Islamic community or nation)” series. Al-Zawahiri reiterated a theme al-Qaeda has used many times, by referring to the downfall of Muhammad Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt, who was deposed in a military coup d’état in July 2013. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, had taken part in elections and had tried to find a compact with the non-Islamist sections of the Egyptian state and society, including the felul, the remnants of the fallen tyranny, notably in the military, police, bureaucracy, and judiciary, plus the media and business class. It had served Morsi no good: severely constrained in his authority, Morsi’s government unravelled quickly when these forces came together with foreign sponsors for a putsch. The old regime was restored in Egypt, with the support of Western countries, despite being more violent than ever. For al-Qaeda, the lesson of this episode is clear: without a violent revolution that creates tabula rasa, Islamist politics will not get a chance. An English-language transcript of al-Zawahiri’s speech was made available by al-Qaeda’s media apparatus and is reproduced below. Continue reading →
Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made a speech on 26 January 2018, entitled, “After Seven Years Where Is the Deliverance?” The speech built the case that the “Arab spring” uprisings failed because they tried to make changes within the framework of the nation-state, to be incremental, and to make accommodations with the fallen regimes, rather than radical “purification” by launching coordinated jihadist revolutions that respected no frontier, violently uprooted the old order, and implemented the shari’a. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media station and is reproduced below. Continue reading →
The Astana track of Syrian “peace” negotiations began on 23 January 2017, under Russian guidance in the Kazakh capital, with Iran and Turkey also invited as “guarantor countries” of the various sides in Syria. The process, initiated in the shadow of the savage conquest of Aleppo city in December 2016 that signalled the total strategic defeat of the insurrection against the Bashar al-Asad regime, was an attempt by Moscow to convert the military gains it had enabled by Asad and Iran on the ground into political facts that could then be imported into the internationally-recognized Geneva process. This “Astana-isation of Geneva” was Russia’s bid to take control of the political process and redefine it: rather than having Asad’s removal as its end-goal, it would set the terms of reintegration into the Asad state. Abetted by a purblind Western campaign against the Islamic State (IS) and a strategic reorientation in Turkey, the pro-Asad coalition has more or less had its way for the last year. But there are now signs that this approach is beginning to unravel. Continue reading →
The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt to impose a boycott on Qatar this summer was an out-of-character development for the Gulf, where all too much politics is conducted behind closed doors between the ruling families and elites. To go public, the schism between Qatar and the so-called Quartet must have been very serious.
It was the end-point of a dispute that began in the 1990s about Qatar’s foreign policy, which at that point became independent of the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and indeed actively competitive with Saudi interests. Doha wanted to alter the Saudi-oriented status quo and did so by empowering groups—almost invariably Islamists—in its cause. Those Islamists not only had agendas running counter to the other Gulf states’ conception of regional order, but which the Quartet regarded as threatening to their internal security. Continue reading →
I released a report today, published by the Henry Jackson Society, Qatar and the Gulf Crisis. The intent was to examine the charges made against the Qatari government by its Gulf neighbours with regard to the funding of terrorism, the hosting of extremists, the dissemination of hate speech and incitement, among other things. Having separated fact from fiction with regards to he accusations against Qatar, the report proposes how Britain might proceed in such a way as to press Doha on issues of concern, while avoiding being drawn into the middle of the Gulf dispute, and trying to foster reconciliation between allies, especially at a time when a united front is necessary to oppose the far larger challenge of the Iranian theocracy. Continue reading →
The ninety-eighth edition of the Islamic State’s (IS) newsletter, Al-Naba, was released on 22 September 2017. This Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, was evacuated on 17 September due to a bomb scare, and later declared to be a “false alarm”. This edition of Naba claims that an IS operative in fact planted a bomb, causing the chaos at Charles de Gaulle. Al-Naba 98 also contained a further acknowledgement of the “bucket bombing” at Parsons Green tube station in London, Britain, which took place on the morning 15 September 2017. Continue reading →
Libya, which has been wracked by instability and violence since 2011, is re-emerging as a geopolitical hotspot. With opposing forces fighting for control of the war-torn country—the main two being the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA)—foreign powers have begun taking sides, internationalizing the conflict. For Western observers, the growing involvement of Russia, a major ally of LNA commander Khalifa Haftar, represents a particular concern.
Coming on the heels of the Russian military intervention in Syria, Moscow’s role in Libya’s civil war may seem, at first glance, like déjà vu. Once again, it appears that the Kremlin is working to consolidate the power of a pro-Russian regional strongman and establish a “crescent of Russian influence” across the Middle East. And given the similarities between Haftar and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, some degree of anxiety is understandable. Like Assad, who has long appealed to foreign governments by referring to Syrian rebels as terrorists, Haftar often frames himself as a bulwark against violent extremism in Libya, where the Islamic State remains active and Islamists have formed powerful militias and entered mainstream politics. Continue reading →